Indian-American gas station owner in Wisconsin charged with forced labor, sexual assault


A federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment charging the Indian-American owner of several Milwaukee-area gas stations with forced labor and sexual assault involving his business. The crimes are said to have occurred between 2009 and 2011.

United States Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad announced Oct. 30, that Harshinder Bhatia, 58, was charged with one count of harboring an alien for financial gain, one count of forced labor involving aggravated sexual abuse, and one count of document servitude. He was arraigned on these charges on Oct. 24.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

According to the indictment, Bhatia employed an Indian woman using force and threats of force that made her believe that if she did not perform such labor and services, she would suffer serious harm. The indictment charges that this alleged crime involved aggravated sexual abuse and was made more possible because Bhatia possessed the victim’s passport.

If convicted, Bhatia faces up to 5 years in prison on the charge of document servitude; up to 10 years in prison on the charge of alien harboring, and up to life in prison on the charge of forced labor.

The indictment also notifies Bhatia that the government was going to go after his properties, those that were allegedly used to help commit the offenses or were acquired as a result of proceeds made from these offenses.




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